Friday, November 30, 2012

Mapo Tofu

Mapo tofu is a Szechuan dish with a yummy spicy sweet sauce and it's great because it's a flexible dish that you can adjust to cater to your taste. If you want to make this dish a vegetarian-friendly one, you can omit the meat or use some sort of meat-substitute instead. Or, you could substitute the beef with ground chicken or turkey for a slightly lower calorie option.

1 lb tofu, cubed
2 tablespoons Thai red chili sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2" piece of ginger, grated
1 teaspoon + 1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon bean paste
3/4 lb ground beef
1/2 onion, diced
long hot pepper, sliced
handful of baby corn
2 tablespoons beef broth
1 teaspoon oil
1 tablespoon Sriracha (optional)
1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes [gochugaru] (optional)
Chop up the onion, pepper, and mince the garlic. Watch out because some peppers are crazy hot and some are really mild.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Pumpkin Scones

If you have any leftover pumpkin puree after all of the Thanksgiving festivities, make some pumpkin scones! It's less cliche than pumpkin pie and it is delicious.

1 cup pumpkin puree
2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 egg
3 tablespoons cream
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces

+1/2 cup powdered sugar
+1 tablespoon milk
+1 teaspoon loose leaf chai (or tea bag)

Combine the dry ingredients in one bowl and then combine the wet ingredients in another bowl. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients using a pastry cutter or do what I did and just chop at it with two knives until the butter chunks are pea-sized. Then carefully stir the wet mixture into the dry ingredients just until the dough is combined. Form the dough into a disk and then cut into 8 pieces (like a pizza) and then bake in a 350 oven for 15 minutes or until lightly browned on the edges. Cool on a wire rack. To make the icing, combine milk and tea and microwave on high for 20 seconds and then let sit for a few minutes to make sure the milk soaks up all of the chai flavor. Then strain the milk into the powdered sugar and stir until a smooth glaze is formed. Drizzle the glaze over the scones and serve warm.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Turkey Soup

Just like yesterday's post on turkey salad, I did a post on turkey soup last year, along with turkey salad. But, like I said yesterday, every year, things turn out a little different depending on what we have leftover, what is in the house, and my mood and ambition levels. This year, we had quite a bit of roasted vegetables leftover so I added a bunch of that to the soup. We also had a bunch of fresh kale that wasn't used and I absolutely love kale in soup.

2 turkey wings (or whatever turkey bones you have leftover)
1 cup shredded turkey
1 cup water
4 cups vegetable stock
2 cups roasted vegetables (we had turnips, onions, baby bell peppers, and sweet potatoes)
1/4 cup pasta (I used ditalini, which is my preferred pasta shape for soup)
1 cup chopped kale
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

This recipe is really easy. Basically, throw everything into a big pot, except for the kale and pasta. Bring it to a boil and then reduce the heat and let the soup simmer for 30 minutes to an hour to let the ingredients meld and to draw out some turkey flavor from the bones. About 10 minutes before you're ready to serve, throw in the pasta and then about 2 minutes before you're ready to serve, throw in the kale.
Serve hot, once the pasta is al dente and the kale is wilted.

Here's the recipe page:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Turkey Salad Sandwiches

I did a post on turkey salad last year but I'm doing another one this year, which is just slightly different (no grapes) but still delicious. Why is it different? You know, cooking is not a precise science and things change depending on my mood, what's available in my kitchen, and how lazy or ambitious I am. Anyway, if you're like me and you have leftovers that need to be used and you enjoy bringing your own lunch to work, this is a good recipe.

Ingredients [makes 6 servings]:
2 cups shredded turkey
1/2 cup diced apple
1/4 cup diced onion
1/3 cup diced celery
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
+ 1 loaf fluffy Italian bread (or any bread of your choosing)
+ 1 tablespoon butter, softened
+ 1 tablespoon cranberry sauce

Start by mixing up the salad ingredients (everything except the bread, butter, and cranberry sauce).
Then, spread some softened butter on the bread and toast (I used my oven broiler) until golden. Then spread on some cranberry sauce, pile on the turkey salad, and then cut to serve.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving Meal 2012

I hope everyone had a lovely holiday. Here are some snapshots from my Thanksgiving Day meal:
cheddar cheese

Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Friday Oreos

Happy Black Friday, all.

If you are braving this crazy massive shopping day at the mall, then you deserve a treat or some sugar to energize you. Here are some homemade oreos with a cocoa cream cheese frosting.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I hope you all enjoy the holiday.

Honestly, I'm already looking forward to the leftovers:
Turkey Soup, Turkey Salad

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Recipes: Baklava

Thanksgiving is almost here and I have one more dessert recipe to share: baklava. Why go all cliche and make pumpkin pie or pecan pie or apple pie when you can make a yummy baklava? It'll be far more impressive, I think, and you could definitely add bits of pecans or dried apples if you need it to taste more "on theme." My family and I don't like overly sweet desserts so this one's great because you can control how much syrup you pour over the baked baklava to keep it from drilling cavities straight through your teeth.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Recipes: Chocolate Chip Truffles

So just because you slave over stoves for the dinner dishes doesn't mean you can skimp on the dessert. A super easy but impressive dessert, that can totally be made ahead of time, are chocolate chip truffles. It's basically a chocolate chip cookie dough, without eggs (salmonella poisoning on Thanksgiving would be horrifying), that you shape into balls and dip in chocolate.

Just a little bit of advice: if you're having difficulty with the dough being too sticky to roll into balls, refrigerate it for an hour or so to stiffen it up.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Recipes: Roasted Vegetables

EAT YOUR VEGETABLES! Roasting vegetables with herbs makes them super flavorful and if you pick a pretty variety, it will definitely jazz up your Thanksgiving spread with a bit of color (other than brown - like the brown turkey, brown gravy, brown stuffing, etc.).

Roasting vegetables is not difficult so I've included a list of suggested vegetables as well as the easy-peasy directions.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thanksgiving Recipes: Cornbread Stuffing

I love stuffing! Even the stuff you buy in a bag and throw together is delicious - it's probably more delicious than most homemade stuffings. However, I do like making my own cornbread stuffing. I use Jiffy Cornbread mix (although on occasion, I will make my own), and cube it up and dry it in the oven, kind of like making croutons. And then I add lots of good stuff like chorizo and cranberries. If you've never made your own stuffing before, this is a good recipe to start with.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thanksgiving Recipes: Turkey

Greetings from Puerto Rico! I'm here on holiday with a few friends, soaking up sun and fun. But I do have a bunch of schedule posts for the next few days. To continue with the Thanksgiving recipe theme, today, I'll share how I make my turkey.

We usually only have 5 or 6 people gathering at our house for Thanksgiving so we have the luxury of buying a small turkey. I say luxury because smaller turkeys take less time to cook and they're usually more moist and delicious. We usually brine our turkey (using Alton Brown's turkey brine recipe) and then give it a little massage and herb treatment before we shove it in the oven. The turkey is the most iconic part of Thanksgiving so it's important not to mess it up. And a guaranteed way to make sure it's moist is to brine it at least 1 day ahead of time and to make sure you use plenty of seasoning before roasting it.

Putting a bunch of aromatics in the bird's cavity help get rid of any gamey flavors and makes your house smell amazing.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thanksgiving Recipes: Cranberry Sauce

Since Thanksgiving is about one week away, I will spend the next few blog posts sharing my favorite Thanksgiving recipes. Thanksgiving preparation is always ridiculous and busy so I don't think I would ever endeavor to do full blown recipe posts BUT, I always photograph the finished results so I do have some visual aids.

First up is cranberry sauce! If you're like my family, you don't mind the stuff in a can. In fact, you love the stuff in a can. But, a few years ago, I started making cranberry sauce from scratch and we haven't looked back.

The thing about making your own cranberry sauce (or jam) is that you have to make sure you don't overcook it. Otherwise, you'll break down the pectin and it won't thicken up.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Kielbasa with Potatoes & Apples

This is another homage to my mama. I don't know if she got this recipe from someone or if it's just something she dreamed up but I love it because 1) it's yummy 2) it's easy and 3) I think sausage is good (please no dirty jokes).

Kielbasa is an Eastern European sausage, most likely Polish (Polska), and usually contains a mixture of different meats (I usually get Hillshire Farm brand, which has a mixture of pork, turkey, and beef). It doesn't have any particularly strong flavor - the way that Italian sausage can be really herb-y or spice-y or how Chorizo has that spicy smoky flavor - so it's great for picky children and adults.

1/2 lb kielbasa, sliced
2 yukon gold potatoes, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1/2 apple, cored and sliced
1/2 bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, smashed and halved
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon olive oil
I like to slice the potatoes about 1/4" thick, which is thin enough to cook through in a reasonable amount of time, but not so thin that they'll overcook while the rest of the ingredients are cooking.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sweet Potato Cakes

One of the things that bothers me SO MUCH is when people use "sweet potato" and "yam" interchangeably. My senior year of college, I took a Food Science course, just for fun, and one of our projects was to come up with a "healthier" ice cream flavor. My group decided on sweet potatoes because they are rich in fiber, complex carbs, vitamins A and C, beta-carotene, potassium, calcium, and iron - it's basically one of the most nutritious vegetables. However, the day we all met in the lab to actually make the ice cream, I saw that our supervisory lab tech had brought us a huge tub of canned YAMS. Yams are delicious but they aren't v. nutritious (they have a good potassium and vitamin K content but not much else), though, to be fair, their carb content is much lower, if you're on a low-glycemic-index or low-carb diet. Yams also have a higher sugar content, and therefore are much sweeter. Anyway, I was pretty peeved because our nutritious ice cream idea wasn't being executed properly. On a side note, our flavor won the class taste test.

Anyway, onto the back story of this recipe: as a kid, my mom would make fried sweet potatoes, almost like tempura but not as heavily breaded, and give them to my sister and me to eat with kimchi and/or to dip into soy sauce and it was just so good. And it was awesome because she didn't mind if we ate a million of them because she knew they were good for us.

Korean people typically use the yellow-variety sweet potatoes which have a purplish-reddish skin with a pale yellow, almost white flesh. The taste is a bit more subtle but just as sweet. However, my local market rarely has the yellow variety; they are always stocked with the orange kind, which are just as yummy. And this recipe uses the orange ones, for just that reason.

1 cup grated or shredded sweet potatoes (about 1/2 lb)
1/3 cup grated or shredded sweet potatoes (about 1 small potato)
1/4 cup grated sweet onion (about 1/2 medium size onion)
1/4 cup cake flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup cold water
1/4 teaspoon salt
oil for frying (canola, vegetable, or peanut oil, something neutral)
Peel the vegetables.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Tangsuyuk (탕수육)

Okay, so this recipe is actually tangsu-saewoo because I made it with shrimp BUT if you choose to use pork or chicken or beef, you can still call it tangsuyuk. Tangsuyuk is a Korean version of sweet and sour pork and it's similar to kanpoongi except it's not spicy. I like tangsuyuk because it's mild and has universally appealing flavors and it's easy to make. It makes an awesome appetizer - often at jjajangmyun place, we'll get one for the table before we get our noodles - and an awesome side dish. The sweet and sour sauce itself can be made ahead of time and warmed up when you're ready to use it so it's great for entertaining with and your guests will be impressed. The reason I decided to use shrimp was because I had it in the house. But by all means, go ahead and use whatever protein you prefer. You could even go vegetarian with this (or vegan) and use tofu or faux-meat.

Ingredients [serves 4]:
1 lb shrimp or chicken or beef or pork or tofu, whatever you like (cut meat into bite-sized strips, shrimp can be left whole)
2 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons of cornstarch
2 tablespoons + 1 tablespoon + 1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/2 onion, sliced
1/2 cup frozen mango chunks or pineapple chunks (omit if you hate them or if you don't have)
1/4 cup frozen peas
1/2 bell pepper, cut into strips
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon + 2 tablespoons oil
salt to taste
Start by chopping up the vegetables.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Fish Jeon (생선전)

Fish jeon is usually made with cod but any white firm fish will do, like tilapia. I really like tilapia because it's yummy, isn't overly fishy, takes on other flavors well, and it goes on sale all the time in my local grocery store. This is an easy dish to make and my relatives always seem to make this for get-togethers, probably because it's easy to make ahead of time and because it's both kid and adult-friendly.

Ingredients [makes 8 to 12 pieces]:
2 tilapia fillets, cut into small pieces
3 tablespoons flour
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt x 2
1/2 teaspoon pepper x 2
1 tablespoon oil (canola, vegetable, something neutral)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1/2 scallion, chopped into small pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds
Start by assembling the sauce. Combine soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, scallions, sesame seeds, and garlic and stir together. Set aside and let the flavors combine.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Budae Jjigae (부대찌개)

FYI, I've got a much prettier, updated version of this recipe, if you're interested.

Budae jjigae ("army stew/soup") is a dish that originated back in the early 1950s during the Korean War. Food was scarce so people made this dish with what they had: spam and hot dogs from the US Army. It's usually a spicy soup and these days, if you order it in a Korean restaurant, you'll find ricecakes, ramen noodles, pasta, tofu, ground beef, beans, even cheese, depending on the place.

Personally, I like to make my budae jjigae with kimchi jjigae as the base and then I add in hot dogs (or spam, never both because the result is always too salty for me), ramen noodles, ricecakes (dduk), and anything else that might sitting in the pantry that sounds good.

Ingredients [serves 4]:
2 cups cabbage kimchi, sliced into bite-sized pieces
1 cup water (approximate)
1/2 lb tofu, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 package of ramen noodles
handful of glass noodles (dangmyun, 당면, sweet potato starch noodles)
2 hot dogs, sliced (I like Boar's Head skinless frankfurters because they're less salty and have a better texture but your favorite brand of hot dog is fine; you could also use Spam in addition or instead)
handful of rice cakes (oval kind)
Start by placing kimchi and water (enough to submerge the kimchi) in a pot and placing over medium heat to bring to a boil. Then lower the heat and let it simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the kimchi is a bit translucent. You'll also notice the colors will go from a vibrant bright red to a slightly more dull maroon-ish color as it cooks.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp

Happy Election Day! I highly encourage everyone, who is eligible, to exercise your right to vote. Even if you believe that your vote can't change anything, take advantage of the fact that you are in a country where you are allowed to participate in at least a piece of the decision-making process.

And today's recipe is Ron Swanson's #1 favorite food wrapped around his #3 favorite food: BACON-WRAPPED SHRIMP!
That's a Parks & Recreation reference, which is a great show, by the way, and definitely worth watching. It's available on Netflix so you can catch up and NBC lets you watch new episodes online (for free). Listen to me, I sound like an advertisement. I'm not forcing you to watch; I'm just letting you know that I enjoy it and that you might too. But anyway, why am I posting about bacon-wrapped shrimp on Election Day? Ron Swanson works for the government and he's a libertarian and I'm sure he'd make a point of exercising his right to vote.

Anyway, bacon-wrapped shrimp is a super simple and quick recipe that's great for entertaining. It's awesome because you only need a few ingredients and it cooks up really fast and it looks impressive. If you are throwing a party for vegetarians, vegans, and/or people who keep kosher, this is NOT the recipe for you. But, if you are awesome and you love bacon, then read on.

Ingredients [makes 1 dozen]
6 pieces of thin-sliced bacon
1 dozen jumbo shrimp
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
12 toothpicks
Make sure your shrimp are completely peeled and de-veined. If you didn't know this, that "vein" is its digestive tract and it's full of its waste, maybe some sand, and other gunk. And I don't know about you, but I'd prefer not to eat that. Then sprinkle with cayenne pepper. Why cayenne? I like a little bit of spiciness and I think it complements both the shrimp and the bacon really well. If you're not a fan, you can definitely omit it or you could use garlic salt or sweet paprika or even some chopped herbs - whatever you like. And I like to season the shrimp, not the bacon because 1) bacon is already so flavorful and 2) you don't want to burn the seasoning by leaving it exposed on the surface of the bacon.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Thai Green Curry with Salmon

I absolutely love Thai curries: green, red, massaman, they're all so flavorful and aromatic and delicious, I couldn't pick a favorite. If you've never had Thai curry before, I definitely recommend you try it at least once and the best one to start with, I'd say, is green curry. I don't want to say it's the mildest, because it definitely still has a ton of flavor, but it's a little bit sweeter - the Thai name for it, kaeng khiao wan means sweet green curry - and I think it has flavors that are more familiar to an unfamiliar palate, if that makes any sense.

Green curry paste is made by mashing up green chilies, lots of ginger, shallots and/or onion, garlic, kaffir lime zest, lemongrass, cumin, coriander, shrimp paste, peppercorns, and salt. You could definitely make this paste yourself but my local grocery store sells green curry paste in a jar (Thai Kitchen brand) and it tastes great and I like to take shortcuts when they're available (but still delicious).

The awesome thing about making curries at home is that you can add your favorite ingredients. Sometimes I'll go to a Thai restaurant and read the menu descriptions and I'll be torn between two different curries just because of the specific vegetables used in each. However, that dilemma is shredded when I cook at home because I can add ALL of the vegetables I want. This particular recipe uses salmon but you could use chicken, beef, tofu or omit the protein altogether. Same goes for the vegetables I used; you can use the vegetables you prefer. Oh, and this dish can be made vegan - green curry paste is vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free.

Ingredients [serves 4]
1 lb salmon (or protein of your choice)
13.5 oz can of unsweetened coconut milk
1 heaping tablespoon green curry paste
1/4 onion, sliced
1 small eggplant, cubed
1 cup mushrooms
1/2 cup green beans
1/4 cup bamboo shoots (canned)
1/2 teaspoon salt (more or less to taste)
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon lime zest
+ jasmine rice
So here's what green curry paste looks like:

Friday, November 2, 2012

Thanksgiving Planning 2012

Yeah, so we're only two days into November BUT, my sister and I have already started planning our Thanksgiving menu. In fact, she put together a document on google docs for us to edit together more than 2 weeks ago. Around this time of year, we both get really excited to cook AND eat.

I already know that I want to make a pumpkin bread pudding for dessert and I'm dreaming up a few macaron flavors that will exude a Thanksgiving theme - not anything weird like gravy macarons or green bean casserole macarons but maybe something like cranberry or sweet potato? I'm not sure yet and that's why we like to start brainstorming early. It gives us a chance to incorporate a decent number of dishes, schedule certain things that can be done ahead of time, and make sure there's a good balance of carbs, veggies, and protein. We also make sure to plan on making a few special libations - cranberry sangria anyone? - and homemade decorations.

'Tis the season, people. It's here.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Fish Tacos (2)

Back in the spring, I did a post on fish tacos that used salsa and grilled corn. Over the weekend, I wanted fish tacos again, but instead of salsa, I used the guacamole from yesterday's post and red cabbage and homemade tortillas from Tuesday's post.

Ingredients [serves 2 starving people or 4 normal people]:
2 tilapia fillets (or other firm white fish like cod or mahi mahi)
1/2 lime
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cloves minced garlic
lemon for anyone who likes lemon squeezed on their seafood
**the avocado and jalapeno are for the guacamole...
+ corn tortillas, red cabbage, red onion, cilantro, guacamole, and hot sauce
Start by marinating the fish in olive oil, the juice of half a lime, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and garlic. Let the fish marinate for about 1 hour in the refrigerator. Don't marinate it too long because the acidity of the lime juice will sort of cook the fish (which is what happens in ceviche).
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